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Attorney General urges Virginians to be wary of scams related to $600 relief payments

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Attorney General Mark R. Herring has issued a consumer alert urging Virginians to be wary of scammers taking advantage of the coming $600 federal relief payments to get personal or bank information to steal your money. Scammers often use the issuance of payments from the government as an opportunity to try to take advantage of Virginians by using deceitful, high-pressure calls, emails, or texts that trick people into compromising their personal information or losing their money.

“This is a moment when we should all be coming together to support one another, but unfortunately we know that scammers and criminals often view payments like the $600 economic assistance as an opportunity to line their own pockets,” said Attorney General Herring. “Just remember that no action should be required on your part in order to receive the assistance. It should either be directly deposited into your bank account or mailed directly to your house. If you get a call, email, text, or other communication asking for personal or bank account information, hang up, delete the message, and don’t provide any information because it’s probably a scam.”

Attorney General Herring is reminding all Virginians that if they receive an email, text, or phone call about these stimulus checks from someone purporting to be with the government to not give them personal information. These phishing scams will likely ask for things like bank account information under the guise of direct depositing money from the stimulus package into your bank account. Also, remember that the government will not ask you to pay any money upfront to get a stimulus check. So if someone asks you to pay something, it’s a scam.

Below are some additional tips to avoid becoming a victim of a government imposter scam:

  • Don’t give the caller any of your financial or other personal information – Never give out or confirm financial or other sensitive information, including your bank account, credit card, or Social Security number, unless you know exactly who you’re dealing with. Scammers can use your information to commit identity theft. If you get a call about a debt that may be legitimate — but you think the collector may not be — contact the company to which the caller claims you owe money to inquire about the call.
  • Don’t trust a name or number – Scammers use official-sounding names, titles, and organizations to make you trust them. To make the call seem legitimate, scammers also use internet technology to disguise their area code or generate a fake name on caller ID. So even though it may look like they’re calling locally or somewhere in the United States, they could be calling from anywhere in the world.
  • Never wire money or send cash or a prepaid card – These transactions are just like sending someone cash! Once your money is gone, you can’t trace it or get it back.
  • Join the National Do Not Call Registry and don’t answer numbers you don’t know – This won’t stop scammers from calling, but it should make you skeptical of calls you get from out of the blue. Most legitimate salespeople generally honor the Do Not Call list. Scammers ignore it. Putting your number on the list helps to “screen” your calls for legitimacy and reduce the number of legitimate telemarketing calls you get.

If you think you have been a victim of a scam please reach out to Attorney General Herring’s Consumer Protection Section:

Additionally, economic assistance payments should be exempt from garnishment and seizure by debt collectors and creditors under a new law from Attorney General Herring and Delegate Hala Ayala, who proposed the new law after the initial round of $1,200 assistance payments from the CARES Act were left vulnerable to seizure. If anyone believes their payment has been illegally garnished or seized they should assert their rights and demand their money back, or call Attorney General Herring’s Consumer Protection Section for assistance.

New law ensures $600 economic relief payments will not benefit debt collectors

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Warren County girls basketball: Senior Night 2021

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On Monday, January 18th, the Warren County girls basketball team recognized their senior athletes during Senior Night prior to their game against the William Monroe Dragons. The game was intense and ended in a win for Monroe with a final score of 48-64. Prior to the varsity game, Warren County hosted Senior Night for their three seniors on the team, Mackenzi Bates, Kaylee Mondrone and Kara Mondrone.

Warren County girls basketball team played against William Monroe and also celebrated their seniors.

The WC gym was decorated with posters and balloons for the Senior Night celebration. Each senior walked across the gym with two people of their choice and gave a short speech about their achievements as well as their intentions after high school. Kara and Kaylee Mondrone are twins and walked together. The three seniors are very tight knit and Bates stated that she “went to elementary school with Kara and Kaylee, the other two seniors,” and that “It’s been so fun having them by my side and making memories for so many years, and it’s insane we are already seniors.”

In past years, Senior Night has been an exciting event and the gym would be packed for the celebration. Unfortunately, Covid-19 limited the spectators for the event which led to a different type of celebration for the seniors on the team. Kara Mondrone showed appreciation for being able to play at all this year and said “I‘m grateful that I’m able to finish out my last year and be a part of the team for one last time. Even if Senior Night wasn’t exactly normal, I’m happy we had it and it will always be something I will remember.”

The three seniors were starters on the court and led the Wildcats against the Dragons. William Monroe player Ella Weaver demonstrated great skill as she scored a total of 31 points against Warren County. Jamie Kelly scored 15 points for Warren County and had 5 steals.

Despite the loss, Kaylee Mondrone shared her love for the team and said “what I love about our team this year is that we are all friends outside of basketball. We all bond together, including the coaches.” The team has many more games to play this season and will certainly need to use that bond on the court.

The game was live-streamed by Wildcats Live! on sportscopelive.com. Tickets can be purchased for $7/viewership subscription and include high quality video and exciting commentary.

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Community Events

Warren Coalition postpones Youth Have Talent competition

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Due to unforeseen circumstances, the Warren Coalition has decided to postpone the Youth Have Talent 2021 competition.  Pre-registration is still required; potential participants are encouraged to begin the process by emailing Ryan Cubbage at ryan@warrencoalition.org. The new registration deadline, along with the new audition dates, will be announced within the next several weeks.

Warren Coalition is a nonprofit agency established in 1994 to help fill the gaps in health care and substance abuse awareness to the community. The Coalition began under the guidance of Warren Memorial Hospital as an outreach project, but it has since grown and was incorporated in 2001.  The office is currently located in the Warren County Community Center.  Their mission is to make Warren County a safe, healthy, and drug-free community through many programs and in collaboration with 15+ member agencies.

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Crime/Court

Front Royal man pleads guilty to dealing two fatal doses of fentanyl-laced heroin

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A Front Royal, Virginia man, who in the fall of 2017 distributed two fatal, fentanyl-laced doses of heroin, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg to a drug charge that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison, and the possibility of a life sentence, Acting United States Attorney Daniel P. Bubar, Special Agent in Charge Jarod A. Forget of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Washington Division, and the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, announced.

Glenn Eugene Sovereign Jr., 43, of Front Royal, pleaded guilty today to two counts of distributing fentanyl.  Because the recipient of the distribution died from overdose by ingesting the fentanyl within, Sovereign faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison and a maximum possible statutory penalty of life at sentencing.

Glenn Eugene Sovereign Jr. Photo / RSW Regional Jail

“When Sovereign trafficked fentanyl-laced heroin to an already-vulnerable group of people, he perpetuated their addiction and despair, and ultimately caused their death,” Acting United States Attorney Bubar stated today.  “Because of the hard work and persistence of our federal and state partners, Sovereign has been brought to justice and will spend the better part of his life in federal prison.”

“The threat fentanyl brings to our Virginia neighborhoods and families cannot be overstated. With overdoses across the area spiking in the past year, DEA Washington Division has been working hard to investigate and arrest egregious criminals such as this, who are blatantly distributing poisonous drugs and spreading death and violence across our communities.”

Sovereign admitted today that in the fall of 2017 he made regular trips from Front Royal, Virginia to Baltimore, Maryland in order to purchase heroin.

On October 24, 2017, Sovereign met with victim E.R. in Front Royal. E.R. purchased a small packet of heroin from Sovereign which contained fentanyl. Later that night, E.R. ingested the contents of the packet, and as a result died.

On or about October 25, 2017, Sovereign traveled to Baltimore to meet his source of supply, where he purchased one gram of heroin. When Sovereign returned to Front Royal, he met with victim N.C. at Sovereign’s residence where he and N.C. ingested 4-5 Ritalin pills together. Later, before Sovereign left for work, he provided N.C. with a small packet of heroin, which contained fentanyl. On or about October 26, 2017, N.C. ingested the contents of the packet, and she died.

The investigation of the case was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration and Warren County Sheriff’s Office.  Assistant United States Attorney Christopher Kavanaugh is prosecuting the case for the United States.

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‘Polar Plunge’ launches 2021 Humane Society programs as spay-neuter clinic fundraising progresses

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Two major events, one to make money, the other to spend, were launched this month by the Humane Society of Warren County (HSWC) while a look in the rear-view mirror focused on a highly successful 2020 despite the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic.

Executive Director Meghan Bowers, beginning just her third year on the job, announced the date of the second annual Polar Plunge – February 20 – which already has five sponsors and 35 swimmers lined up for a wintertime dip in the frigid waters of Culpeper Lake at the 4-H Center, south of town. Bowers floated the first winter swim last year, an outstanding success financially and for swimmers and onlookers alike that raised more than $10,000.

Polar Plungers, circa 2020, head in for an invigorating dip as family and friends record the event for posterity. Courtesy Photos HSWC

“We’re setting a target of $12,000 this year,” Bowers said, while at the same time proclaiming a healthy start to a campaign to establish a low-cost spay/neuter clinic in downtown Front Royal. “This will have a huge impact on the lives of animals and their people in our community,” she said.

Within just a couple of weeks of a campaign to raise $125,000 as startup money for the clinic, $109,000 is already promised or in hand and interviewing of potential staff members begins next week. Inquiries about the proposed veterinary clinic have already been received by other rescue groups, Bowers said. Until now, spay/neuter candidates have been shipped to Harrisonburg twice a month in lots of about 80 animals per trip.

Looking back on the year of the pandemic, Bowers provided interesting information and impressive statistics including 678 adoptions of mostly dogs and cats, many new “foster families”, three pet food distributions serving 289 families, and the preservation of the title “no-kill” shelter with a 95.6% live release rate.

HSWC Executive Director Meghan Bowers gives a little hands-on seasonal attention to Wagner Shelter resident.

For most of the year, visits to the shelter were confined to “appointments only” due to the virus, but plenty of work for the staff which, Bowers said, was fully retained through the pandemic months of 2020.

Of the upcoming “Polar Plunge,” Bowers named the sponsors – City National Bank, Cool Techs Heating and Air, Ellen Aders State Farm, AirPac, MDUB Chauffer Services, and Cavalier Kennels. Aders is the president of HSWC. Of the 35 individuals already committed to the plunge – and seeking personal sponsorship money – there are 15 newcomers to the chilly sport including Bowers (look for the shark among the costumed entrants) and 20 returning plungers. Molly Llewellyn of Front Royal was the top money earner last year with exactly $1,000. So far, Bowers confided, she has $467 in sponsorship money.

Above, a shark awaits the plunge of a family of penguins – the potentially hazardous encounter ended well though, as predator and prey formed a Polar Plunge bond. Below, maybe it’s time to get back to dry land, some 2020 Polar Plungers decide, besides we’re not sure we can trust that shark.

The HSWC is a non-profit agency that houses homeless, neglected, abused and unwanted animals, in business since 1947. While primarily dealing with cats and dogs, the shelter has also been home to horses, other livestock, birds, reptiles and more.

For more information, visit https://hswcevents.org

These six Polar Plungers are all smiles under relatively balmy 2020 winter skies – will they be as lucky this year?

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Community Events

Volunteers turn Day of Service into an effort to cleanup part of Warren County

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Rea with Eric and his sons are ready to fill some trash bags

Roadside trash includes fast food containers, plastic bags, lighters, butts, bottles, cans, and Styrofoam.

As part of this year’s National Day of Service, a group of folks from Warren County decided to clean up sections of Route 522 between Robin Lane and Gate 3 of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.  It was a perfect day for the cleanup, with temperatures above freezing and into the 40s, and little wind or precipitation.  One big advantage of doing a cleanup at this time of year is that you can go into the underbrush and not worry about encountering a snake, or dealing with ticks, spiders, etc.  In addition, with the leaves off the trees and bushes, it is easier to spot trash.

Most of the cleanup crew members met at Mountain Home B&B about 10am on January 18th, dressed for the weather and wearing good boots for tromping along the side of the road and into the brush.  Mountain Home provided trash bags and gloves, and offered a free Gatorade or Vitamin Water for each volunteer.  The B&B owners also assured participants that they would transport all the bags of trash to one of Warren County’s five refuse/recycle collection sites.  Several participants also helped with taking pictures to commemorate the event.

Steve shows what’s already in the bag

The road section that was cleaned up includes the Appalachian Trail road crossing and parking area, but that wasn’t where most of the trash was found.  Cigarette butts, glass and plastic bottles, beverage cans, Styrofoam cups and plastic lids and straws, were distributed fairly evenly across the entire stretch of roadway, indicating that some people in vehicles must be tossing these items out their windows as they drive along.  One brand of beer kept showing up again and again, leading us to wonder if one person was throwing a beer bottle out the window every day.  Other items collected appeared to be construction debris that was not carefully strapped down and then flew out of trucks as they began to accelerate.

Most of the trash bags headed to the refuse collection site

Rea and Lisa prep to pick up trash

Smokers may not realize that tossing their butts out the window or on the ground (unless it is on your own private property) is littering and is against the law.  The filters, made up of plasticized cellulose acetate, do not biodegrade and can last for many years.

Besides being gross, and littering being illegal, the trash isn’t good for the local wildlife either.  It can be eaten by fish, birds, and insects, cause suffocation, and eventually get into our streams and contribute to pollution in our oceans.  Plastics and Styrofoam are particularly troublesome as they do not biodegrade, but just break into smaller and smaller pieces that make them even more likely to be consumed in the ecosystem.  Trash on our roadsides will not help bring visitors into our county and town, or help local businesses, or bring tax revenue into our local government.

Rea stands ready to tote some trash

The only excuse for littering is laziness and disrespect.  If we love our country, and love our county, we need to stop trashing it!

Disposing of trash properly (and reducing the Styrofoam and plastic packaging that you buy in the first place) helps keep it out of the environment and helps make Warren County a nicer place to live.  The 12 roadside cleanup volunteers did a fantastic job today, collecting roughly a dozen big, contractor bags of trash, and a few larger items like car parts and a cabinet panel. There are several places around Warren County where trash seems to accumulate at an alarming rate, and this stretch of 522 is one of them.  Any time you want to get out and make a difference, you can grab a trash bag and just pick up trash.  Just be sure to take each bag to a refuse/recycle collection site when you are done.

Steve extracts bottles from the brush

The National Day of Service is now a tradition each year on the 3rd Monday in January, Martin Luther King Day, to honor the life of Rev. Martin Luther King, who “sought equality and human rights for African Americans, the economically disadvantaged and all victims of injustice through peaceful protest.”  (The History Channel website)

Susan and Lisa are ready to tackle the terrain

Several groups interested in service projects and/or caring for creation were specifically invited to participate, but everyone was welcome.  There were representatives from the Warren County Democratic committee (WCDC), the Warren Front Royal Appalachian Trail (WFRAT) Committee, Calvary Episcopal Church and even an Appalachian Trail hiker who stopped by to help.  If you or your group are interested in helping with the MLK roadside cleanup next year, or with other roadside cleanups, please contact Lisa Jenkins of Mountain Home B&B at MountainHomeAT@gmail.com.

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Sheriff seeks to commit more departmental resources to county’s war on drugs in withdrawal from regional task force

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It is a simple matter of trying to more effectively impact the local war on drug abuse, with no animosity or a disconnect from cooperative efforts across county, or even task force, lines implied, Warren County Sheriff Mark Butler told Royal Examiner of the pending February 1 withdrawal of the department from the Northwestern Regional Drug Task Force.

“If you do the same thing over and over and get the same result and keep doing it expecting a different result, you know what they say,” Butler observed with a laugh. That “same result” since taking office two years ago were rising drug overdoses at the point of the county’s expansive hard drug problem.

Butler said his department will devote more personnel directly to interdiction efforts than the five officers previously tied to task force operations. “There is no animosity with the task force. We are just circling our wagons and focusing on giving Warren County our best effort. We have 26 guys and plan to use them in our interdiction effort. And we are still in touch with other agencies,” Butler said, pointing to surrounding county sheriff’s departments. Among those is Fauquier County directly to our east, which the sheriff noted is in a different regional task force, Blue Ridge, than the Northwestern his department and the Town of Front Royal have been in over the years.

Hey, let’s give it a try, Warren County Sheriff Mark Butler says of move away from regional drug task force to bringing more departmental resources directly to bare on fighting county drug problem. Royal Examiner File Photo

Front Royal’s Town Police will continue their efforts within the Northwestern Regional Drug and Gang Task Force. Minus Warren County, in addition to the Town of Front Royal, the Northwestern Regional Drug and Gang Task Force includes law enforcement agencies from Page, Shenandoah, Frederick and Clarke Counties, the City of Winchester, and Towns of Strasburg and Luray.

Sheriff Butler’s belief is that with such a widespread focus, sometimes details of the problem in specific jurisdictions can be lost or perhaps left too long to fester. But were long-term statistics to indicate a reversal of the recent trend toward beneficial results from increased departmental attention over the second half of 2020, the decision can always be revisited.

However, the sheriff said since an altered, more expansive focus began being put into effect within his department, overdoses have decreased and street arrests have increased over the past two quarters. Statistics are still being assembled on the altered impact over the past year, he noted. That effort began in last year’s second quarter with the arrival of Lt. Snyder. The sheriff pointed to Snyder’s 27 years of experience and the consequent formation of a drug enforcement unit within the WCSO.

The decision was not a financial one, Sheriff Butler said. Current jurisdictional contributions amount to just over $10,000 annually. Butler reiterated that the decision reached internally was to expand and refocus his department’s resources on the rising and sometimes fatal drug problem inside our county borders.

However, Sheriff Butler reiterated that the decision did not mean cutting his department off from its neighboring jurisdictions, or even task force efforts. He said he maintains regular contact with several nearby county sheriffs, adding, “And I can assure you if the Task Force calls and says it needs extra bodies, the Warren County Sheriff’s Office will assist.

“We will keep the lines of communications open. The only way to combat this is by working together,” Sheriff Butler said – just not solely within task force parameters he believes.

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